When Jonathan Ellery, founder of London design studio Browns, received an email from a recent placement student, he was expecting the usual note of gratitude for providing some invaluable experience. But instead of a friendly “thanks for the opportunity”, the fresh-out-of-college graduate had taken it upon herself to offer her advice on how to run his studio. “I was absolutely astonished,” says Ellery. “I felt for her really because she’s in for a shock. I don’t know where that level of arrogance comes from but I find it baffling.”
On Creative Review we have had some brilliant placement students – both designers and journalists. But we’ve had our fair share of disasters along the way too: the girl who alternated between floods of tears and snoring over her desk until prodded awake; another who kept a calendar next to her monitor on which she would cross off each day until her purgatory was at an end (her last day was outlined in pink stars). And several who went out for lunch and never came back.
The placement experience cuts both ways of course. Tales abound of students being given nothing more challenging to do than clean out a cupboard or get the tea. But doing a placement remains the best means of securing that all-important first design job.
As this year’s flood of new graduates hits the labour market, they could do worse than check out a book of practical advice from which Ellery’s anecdote comes. Two years ago, Adam Graveley was trying to find his first design job and in sore need of some practical advice about how to go about it. So he decided to put his own guide together, drawing on interviews with the likes of Ellery, KarlssonWilker, Tomato’s Tom Roope, Peter Saville and Adrian Shaughnessy. As no commercial publisher would take it up, Graveley has made the book – titled 24/7 – available for free as a downloadable pdf (get a copy here). It’s a little rough around the edges, but it might just help you get a foot in the door.